Historic State Theatre Readies For Grand Re-Opening

The yearlong, $26.5 million makeover will be celebrated on October 6.

Rendering of State Theatre exterior
A rendering of the State Theatre's exterior shows the return of a sign reading “State” on the front facade. Photo courtesy of [email protected]

When the pandemic shut down the State Theatre New Jersey, the performing arts center broke out the old adage: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The closure became an opportunity for the New Brunswick-based arts anchor to accelerate its planned renovation.

The yearlong, $26.5 million makeover—funded by donors and Middlesex County—will be celebrated on October 6 with a reopening event, which is open to the public, featuring a ribbon-cutting, marquee lighting and self-guided tours.

“It kind of all works out,” says Sarah K. Chaplin, president and CEO.

Originally opened in 1921 as a silent-film and vaudeville house, the State Theatre has endured many transformations, including a revitalization in the 1980s following a decade of disrepair. The latest revamp is momentous.

“Your entire experience, from the second you cross our threshold through to your seat, is really one of elegance and warmth,” says Chaplin. The Art-Deco interior is replete with wood paneling, brass and gold details and red plush seats with walnut-stained wooden trim.

State Theatre interior

Brass details, red-plush seats and dark-stained trim highlight the art-deco interior of the revamped and updated theater. Photo courtesy of [email protected]

One prominent nostalgic element is the return of a tall, vertical sign reading “State” on the front facade.

Considering the needs of a post-pandemic world, there is a new HVAC system. Restrooms are touchless and have designated entrances and exits. The addition of an elevator makes the State Theatre fully ADA compliant, and wheelchair seating has been doubled. The donor lounge has more than doubled in size. Visiting productions will appreciate a new motorized rigging system that will reduce load-in and load-out times.

State Theatre’s centennial season is full of exhilarating productions and performances. The Broadway series includes An American in Paris, Waitress and Hairspray. Artist performances will include Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr., Gladys Knight, Foreigner and comedian Randy Rainbow.

“It’s been very exciting to think about having a brand-new theater to celebrate the legacy that has been this community center for the last 100 years and all that it can be in the future,” says Chaplin.

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